I have mixed feelings and a few questions about this proposed change to the SOFA:
- Will court-appointed interpreters be provided?
- How long can personnel under SOFA be held?
- Will Japan be allowed to rearrest personnel under SOFA soon after “release?”
- Will those under 20 be considered juveniles?
Civilian employees and dependents also face disciplinary action, which can result in criminal charges being forwarded to U.S. District Courts or sanctions such as being barred from military bases or forcing dependents to return to the U.S.
Here is just one of the guidelines regarding the SOFA:
Criminal Jurisdiction: Japanese authorities have the primary right to exercise criminal jurisdiction over members of the U.S. Armed Forces for most criminal offenses. A USFJ servicemember or USGOV Civilian who becomes involved in an incident should contact the nearest U.S. or JSDF MP office.
Personnel apprehended offpost by the Japanese police may be detained in Japanese custody for up to 23 days. The Japanese police are required to notify U.S. authorities immediately of such custody, but are not required to transfer custody.
Narcotics offenses, including even small amounts of marijuana, are severely dealt with under Japanese law. If a U.S. military member is under investigation, he/she will be placed on administrative hold by the USARJ Commander, and will not be allowed to leave Japan.
Driving: When operating a motor vehicle in Japan, a driver must possess a motor vehicle license that authorizes driving in Japan, issued by the local Provost Marshal office. Under Japanese law, every licensed driver is a professional driver. Therefore, all drivers are expected to exercise an extremely high standard of care. Drunk driving is a criminal offense and the blood alcohol limit is very low, .03 ml. (most states are .08 ml). The United States has primary jurisdiction over vehicular accidents while in the performance of official duty.
[Via Kyodo] “Japan is considering floating to the United States a plan to make it mandatory for Washington to hand over military personnel suspected of committing crimes in Japan to Japanese investigators before indictment in any kind of crime whenever demanded by Japan, government sources said Sunday.
The proposed revision in the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, which governs operations of the U.S. military in Japan and legal arrangements for its personnel, goes a step further from current special arrangements in which a U.S. serviceman is handed over to Japan before a formal indictment is filed only in cases of murder and other heinous crimes.
The United State has so far refused to comply with Japan’s call for a provision of the kind under the agreement, citing a delay in Japan implementing the full visual and audio recording of interrogations.
“The United States views that the Japanese way of questioning (suspects) disregards human rights so there is a need for Japan to make efforts to ensure (transparent) questioning through full audio and visual recordings, and the Hatoyama government is working in that direction,” one of the sources said.
According to the sources, Hatoyama intends to convey the proposal to U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit to Tokyo next month but the prime minister may put off raising the issue amid strained ties between the two countries on the unresolved issue of where to relocate a U.S. military airfield in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture.
Under the proposed revisions of SOFA, the Japanese government is considering calling on the United States to also give Japan jurisdiction over crimes committed by U.S. personnel on duty outside U.S. bases, the sources said.” Via Kyodo.